Really reluctant to move forward
I ever so intermittently do dressage work with my gelding. He sustained a tendon and ligament injury and a light fracture in his RF as a yearling. As a result he can be "off" and has just been a trail horse. When he is good & sound I have gotten the occasional dressage lesson with him (maybe 10 over the past three years) to give us some homework should I decide to put him in the arena. He NEEDS a job, hes smart and a sh*t to deal with. He enjoys dressage work for about 10 minutes and after that, he is over it.
He moves good and forward for about 10 minutes, making contact on the bit and making progress. After we've walked and trotted in each direction he begins to require a ton of leg and shortly after that he will all together decide to take 50' to move from a walk into a trot and buck, crow hop or generally throw a fit if you really press the issue (which I do, because he is not intimidating anyone and knows better!) when he does trot he'll duck behind the bit, refuse to bend and basically make you work for a really awful trot. He is not sore, or tired. I have had two instructors out and both left with a "That horse is a @!$#%&**" attitude. I am planning to get a few lessons with a Grand Prix level rider at the end of this month, to see if she can lend any advice on how to over ride this and generate movement.
Until then. What do you do in this case? What is the best remedy for a horse behind the vertical that stops with more leg? Any exercises that I could try to keep him focused and change things up? Its seems like the more I drive the slower and more resistant he will get. Also, I keep very light contact on the bit. I am looking more for his hind end to push him forward than I am for any "head set" or "frame".
What are good balance and straightness exercises?
I really do not have any current videos but these two pictures are a couple of weeks old. He was behaving, more or less, during the photos but maybe they'll help with any advice.
When you ride, do you ALWAYS expect a prompt response to the leg? And will he move out on the trail at a brisk and sustained trot, whether on a straightaway or curve? Does contact with the bit, to him, mean "slow", 99% of the time?
I do always expect a response to leg. I tend to ask, ask a little more, then get after him. It is a fine line with him, if you were to give him a sharp kick right off the bat he would stop moving and it would be game on. He has never been a horse to shape up when reprimand, never going to jump forward and move on.
He will move right out on the trail whenever he is asked. He enjoys bending around curves, side passing between trees. It keeps him busy otherwise he gets bored, then naughty. He isn't a sit on and do nothing kind of horse.
I am not sure if contact on the bit means slow. It shouldn't. Since I spend more time driving him FORWARD asking him to move out then I have using my hands and seat to slow him down.
Has he been checked for pain? Could be a bad saddle fit that gets ouchy when he really has to work.
Maybe its because I'm used to riding an Arab but his head seems lower than it should be. The middle of his neck is the highest point and not his poll.
Does this only take place in an arena or on the trail too? I'm curious as to how he reacts to dressage on the trail.
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What a beauty...
When a horse goes behind the vertical it is an evasion of contact as you know. Often the natural response is to throw the reins and give more leg. Throwing or releasing the reins is a reward for going behind. So if he goes behind he has learned he can get off contact. What I do is hold contact by either shortening the reins or by widening my hands to take up contact. Usually the horse will quickly realize there is no relief and no reward and will go back to a better position. I will also apply more leg if needed.
For beginning dressage you are riding him with his head too low. His neck needs to come out of his shoulders horizontally.
As far as the lack of leg response, I do not have an answer. You might have to slug it out with him. Not beating on him but tickling with a whip and continue until he decides to finally go forward. I've worked with a mare like this. Some workouts were exactly as you describe. 10 good minutes followed by 30 horrible minutes. I just kept asking for what I wanted without getting upset. Eventually she would come around. Exhausting 1 1/2 hours + but she did decide it wasn't worth the effort eventually. Praise anything good. Pat him on the neck, talk to him... Once you win, things will start to turn around. Ending a workout with him being a puke is only going to continue the naughty behavior.
Work on leg yielding. He must listen to the leg. If he hates the ring you can work leg yielding on trails. You can also teach contact on trails so maybe you can take him out and work him.
He has been checked for pain. Saddle fit has been a contributor in the past. The Western saddle in the pictures is close. He does have a pretty darn good fitting Dressage saddle that he is typically ridden in. And either which way, he does this bareback also.
His head is to low, but I am having trouble getting him to bring it up. In the second picture it is lower than his usual, but he is always low.
This is from earlier this summer -
This is more of where he'll be in the first 10 minutes -
He does enjoy leg yeilding, its just GO after the first 10 minutes that he will not do. I figured more leg work would be a good idea, so I am hoping the instructor at the end of the month can give me some shoulder in homework too.
I may be throwing away the contact and just using leg when his head gets to low or behind? I'll be more conscious on the outside rein and maintaining contact and see if I can wait him out.
What kind of bit are you using? Does he have a small mouth? Sometimes a small mouthed horse will find a bit uncomfortable and go behind vertical to get the tongue pressure released.
Yes be mindful to maintain light contact whence dips behind vertical.
First pic of you notice that he appears to be pulling you forward. Try making sure he doesn't pull you. If you keep a strong position he might not go as low.
The second pic looks great. You have him moving out and his back legs are really close to his front. This is awesome IMO. His back looks raised and His neck position looks very good. When he does that have him come down to a walk and praise him.
Gret advice. I. Too. Notice in the pic where he is plowing downward you are sitting so that you pelvis is rocked forward and your seat ones are pointing backward. This will encourage hollowing out. When he comes behind try really staying focused on riding his hind end. I literally put a vision in my head of the horse being a two legged creature like an ostrich, and I am riding those two, powerful legs.
Thanks for the pointers!
I am using a training snaffle.
That last photo posted is where he is almost effortlessly for the first ten minutes of a ride whether walking or trotting. He gets a lot of "good boy" for it. He just seems to be like "Yeah. I'm awesome. And now I'm over it because I clearly know all there is to know. So now lets play something else or I'll just stand here..." Then its fighting (not literally) to get him to maintain a "frame" like this, vrs right with his head far to low or behind the bit.
I do still wonder if the leg is giving him some issues. Some horses can't cope with even a small amount of discomfort, and you say he is on and off sound? There's a good chance that after 10 mins of travelling forward it starts to tire and become uncomfortable. He doesn't have to be visably lame to be uncomfortable/tender.
I would try him out on the trails. Instead of meandering around, have a go at riding forward into a contact. See if you get the same response.
After that, it turns into a rider issue, not a horse issue. Perhaps you are inadvertently gripping your knee/thigh, blocking your hips/pelvis, giving backwards pressure on the reins when trying to ask for forwards, etc. These are all extremely common rider faults on a lazy horse. It is very easy to put everything into the lower leg to drive, but the rest of your body without your realisation can become tense, effectively blocking the forward movement. Then it's a get out of jail free card for the horse to start bucking/rearing/whatever else it wants to do out of confusion/annoyance.
Have any of your instructors actually ridden him?
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